1 st Conference of the Connections Project "Joining the Dots: criminal justice, treatment and harm reduction"

(posted 23/04/2009)


UNODC Project Office for the Baltic States supported participation of Baltic delegation at the 1 st Conference of the Connections Project "Joining the Dots: criminal justice, treatment and harm reduction". The conference took place in Krakow, Poland on the 25 th - 27 th of March 2009. Participants of the conference representing NGOs, prison administration, ministries, international organisations, universities, the police and drug users unions came from many European countries and beyond.

Before the opening of the conference participants were offered a possibility to visit local prison or community services. Participants from Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia took an opportunity and visited a detention centre on Montelupich street in Krakow. The head of the centre showed prison hospital where hospitalised prisoners can receive medical treatment in three units: surgical, psychiatric and the unit of internal medicine. Prisoners with opioid dependence also have a possibility to participate in the methadone maintenance therapy (MMT) which is available not only in this imprisonment setting, but also in several other Polish prisons for few years already.


Latvian delegation. From the right side: Ms.Kristine Kipena (MoJ), Mr.Valerijs Sergejevs (Prison Administration), Mr. Imants Mitrosenko (State Police) and Ms.Evija Dompalma (UNODC Project Office for the Baltic States)

During the conference speakers emphasised that prisoners are entitled to a standard of health care equivalent to that available in the outside community. This refers both to treatment as well as preventive measures, including needle and syringe programmes (NSP) and MMT. It was stressed that in order to ensure the quality of treatment it is necessary to conduct repeatedly assessments of client needs/progress throughout all the treatment process as well as to assess the work and the satisfaction level of the employees.

In general the conference's plenary and parallel sessions covered the path of a drug user within the criminal justice system: starting from the phase of arrest, through sentencing in the court, alternatives to imprisonment - where and when implemented - and imprisonment and, not less important, the phase of release and aftercare.  Conference presentations are available at the website http://www.connectionsproject.eu/conference2009/presentaitons-downloads.

In addition to the conference's programme UNODC Project Office for the Baltic States organised a side meeting for delegates from Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia. During this meeting the delegates shared ideas about new initiatives within the criminal justice system that will be supported by the on-going UNODC project. It was agreed that a pilot project on MMT will be initiated in at least one prison in Latvia in the year 2009. Lithuanians will assess the current situation and gaps in providing MMT in arrest houses. In Estonia, it is planned to assess barriers for introduction of MMT in Tartu prison as well as continuation of therapy in arrest houses.


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